Tuesday, February 20, 2007

tia: has god left africa?

There was a moment in Blood Diamond when I almost stood up and screamed "No!" at the screen. It crossed my mind to do so at the time. It really did. I was ticked off...

At various times in the movie people shrug their shoulders at the mess they see around them and simply say "TIA". This Is Africa. At one point this observation goes further as it is affirmed that "God left Africa years ago."

Really?! I just cannot let a statement go by without a few comments.

(a) The staggering growth of the church in Africa would suggest otherwise. This is evidence enough that God is still present and active in Africa. But to quote Shania Twain numbers "don't impress me much" (on their own) ... so I move on

(b) One of the reasons why I am a Christian - and not a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist - is that I am drawn to the way the Bible takes time to reveal God as a God who suffers. Jesus is 'acquainted with grief' and was born so that he could die. The shadow of the cross falls over the earliest chapters of the gospels. God is not embarrassed by TIA. Nor does he try to escape from it. He knows it is the work of sin and evil deep within human hearts and systems. His unfolding plan is to deal to this problem. Nor does God turn his face away from it. For those who seek him he draws nearer and closer to them in their suffering. I love and worship this God...

Sometimes in April (the story of the Rwandan genocide) captures this reality far better than Blood Diamond (probably because it ain't been Hollywoodised!!). What happens at those moments of sharpest pain in that ghastly story? We find characters reciting Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer in order to gain comfort. The witness of believers down the centuries and across the timezones is that the light of hope and joy shines brightest just where the dark is darkest. God has never left Africa. He is more there than he has ever been (if that is possible).

We do God a great injustice when we nibble around the edges of this 'health and wealth, happy and clappy' gospel which is so prevalent today. He hates it.

(c) For me the issue of Blood Diamond is not about where God has gone in the face of TIA - but where have the people of God gone ... the very followers of Jesus in those countries where the diamonds are going. Why are they not standing up and confronting TIA? Why are they not joining with their God and drawing closer to this suffering? When will it click for them that a global church finding ways to 'weep with those who weep' on a global scale is going to become a compelling feature of God's global mission - and part of what will commend the gospel to unbelievers.

Maybe TIA is not the only problem. Maybe there is a mess in the movie caused by "This Is Europe" (TIE) or This Is America (a different TIA) or This Is New Zealand (TINZ). In this mess we find people addicted to consumption and unable to control a lust for more. It blinds them and it deafens them to the sights and sounds of TIA and so we do nothing.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

7 comments:

tim said...

I guess the 752 million dollar question is: What can we do about TINZ in order for people to be able to see beyond our sheltered and highly privileged lives, and start thinking about the things that really matter? i.e not the latest blond (no offense) tragedy fresh from the Hollywood press.

ana said...

The other day someone told me that "africans are inherently violent". How do you get such a mis-informed opinion.

Perhaps educating ourselves about the humanity of the African people, as having equal diginity and value to ourselves would give us a better perspective.

Jono said...

As someone who lived in Africa for the first 15 and a bit years of my life, I think I had a different opinion of the Blood diamond to the 5 Kiwi's I watched it with. While they were shocked and dismayed by stories of child rebels, whole villages being slain and wide spread corruption, I merely felt embarrassed. The low value of human life was very evident in the movie and that attitude has a dulling effect on the people who live in Africa. Dulling in that one see's the murders and is not shaken, looks at the chaos and accepts it as fact. That enviroment shapes you and not for the better.

While I can agree with Ana that Africans are not inherently violent. There are things that are so morally corrupted going on that it takes a complete optimist to live there and believe there is any hope. Yes, God is still in Africa, the church grows, but I see little future without Western intrusion and reform.

tim said...

Some would say that it was western intrusion and reform that has brought the continent to where it is now....

Wayne Field said...

A thought provoking post Paul thanks. I haven't seen Blood Diamond, but I will now. I have friends in Africa, and yes they are optimists and need to be. But among the dark misinformation about that continent I hear true stories of wonderful life transformations.

[You may be interested to know that Brian Harris has join the Ra'ah blog as a contributor].

Paul Windsor said...

This is where the West African, converted-from-Islam, Professor of World Christianity at Yale University is just so fascinating.

Lamin Sanneh. I read another of his books over the summer. Whose Religion is Christianity? (Eerdmans, 2003). 130 pages. He asks (and answers) himself a whole heap of questions. Very conversational.

His thesis is that it is precisely the 'intrusion' (to use Jono's word) of missionaries committed to things like translation and indigeneity that gave the peoples of Africa such a lift. Hardly what the anthropologists are saying...

Also I remember Garth Hewitt's (Tear Fund) comment to me 20 years ago ... 'if the global christian community stood up and found ways to identify ('intrude' in some way?) with those suffering under apartheid, apartheid would not last.'

The global church must find ways to weep with those who weep ... and I reckon one person, one at a time, standing against TINZ and being prepared to be Jesus in the midst of TIA ... that can make a difference.

Matt said...

I think this stems from people's perception of who or where God is. For God to have 'left this place' don't you first have to assume that he exists in some other place and chooses to come and stay in this place?

If your perception of God is such that God is everywhere and everywhere is in God then you cannot say that God has left.

With this in mind you will still able to see God in everything. People triumphant in the face of adversity is an example already discussed but when I watched Blood Diamond I boggled at the beauty of that place. The mountains, the rivers, the flora.

The beauty of God's creation continues to glorify him even though the world is corrupted by sin.